Climate activists acclaim extraordinary victories over Exxon and Shell

Big Oil suffered a climate reaction after a court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to aggressively reduce carbon emissions and ExxonMobil shareholders backed an activist investor who said the supermajor had “existential risk” due to of its focus on fossil fuels.

Both moves come as world governments accelerate plans to decarbonize their economies in pursuit of net-zero goals and international oil companies seek to navigate an uncertain transition to cleaner fuels despite the still robust demand for lucrative hydrocarbons. produce.

In the Netherlands, a district court in The Hague governed in favor of climate campaigns challenging Shell, saying the Anglo-Dutch oil producer needed to lower its emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 from 2019 levels, a much faster pace than the company had expected.

Across the Atlantic, Exxon shareholders challenged the company’s management elected at least two new board members proposed by Engine No. 1, a small hedge fund that launched a militant campaign in December.

In addition, a large majority of Chevron shareholders voted in favor of a resolution calling on the American supremacy to “substantially reduce” its 3-issue scope, or those of the products it produces. The company said it is “carefully considering” the outcome.

Militants hailed the day as an important moment in the history of the oil industry, as the urgency of the climate crisis came at the door of some of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers.

“This will be seen in retrospect as the day everything changed for Big Oil,” said Andrew Logan, head of oil and gas at Ceres, which coordinates investors ’climate action.

“How the industry chooses to respond to this clear signal will determine which companies thrive for the next transition and which ones to leave,” he said.

Darren Woods, Exxon’s chief executive, said he had “heard from shareholders of his desire to catalyze the changes … and we are well positioned to respond.”

Analysts said Shell’s decision could set a precedent for similar cases against the world’s largest corporate polluters, who could now face it. processes and be required to review their business models.

“The legal, economic and societal decision is significant,” said Thom Wetzer, who directs the sustainable law program at Oxford University. “All energy industry companies and all heavy emitters will be warned and will have to accelerate their decarbonisation plans.”

The court’s decision follows a legal campaign led by Milieudefensie, the Dutch wing of Friends of the Earth. Donald Pols, director of the Friends of the Earth Netherlands, described the decision as “a monumental victory”.

Shell said he “will appeal the court’s disappointing decision today.”

Shell and Chevron stock prices were steady Wednesday, while Exxon rose 0.7 percent.

However, Nick Stansbury at Legal and General Investment Management, said that “while the market doesn’t seem to have answered, there is a valid question as to whether this is a watershed moment in the same way that the first Big Tobacco lawsuits were “.

Learn more from Myles McCormick is Justin Jacobs

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